NORTHERN VIRGINIA INTERGROUP
When AA started in 1935, “carrying the message” followed the Oxford Group’s tradition of “personal evangelism”, where a “changed man” would carry the message to someone else. So, the only way that someone learned about AA was from someone who was sober. Growth was slow – by 1939 there were about 90 sober AAs in Akron and Cleveland and another 10 in New York. When the Big Book was published in April
1939, it told the reader to write to New York if he wanted to contact AA. As people wrote in, their names were given to someone in their area who had written in previously, so they could contact each other. The blind leading the blind! Continued correspondence with New York was encouraged. As an example, Ruth Hock the
non-alcoholic secretary, in 1939 sent Fitz M., who had sobered up in New York in 1935 and later moved to Washington, the names of four men who had written New York after buying the Big Book. Two were from D.C., one was from Penn Laird, Virginia, (down by Harrisonburg) and one was from Greensboro, North Carolina. Fitz must have been the closest sober AA.
By the end of 1939 Washington had seven sober AAs, including Bill A. from Arlington. At first, they met in various members’ homes, but in March 1940 started meeting at the VFW Hall at 17th and L streets NW. In September 1940, as word got out that there was an alcoholic recovery program called Alcoholics Anonymous in Washington, the group started to grow, so they rented a studio room behind 1310
Massachusetts Avenue NW, got a post office box and a telephone. It was a huge success
– by the end of 1940 the Washington group had 70 members who lived in Washington, Virginia, and Maryland. There was a rush of publicity about that time. The Big Book was being sold, there were articles about AA in Liberty magazine and The Saturday Evening Post, and newspaper articles in The Washington Post and Evening Star. So many people came to AA that a September article in the Washington Post said they “couldn’t give out the address of the AA clubhouse because of pathetic panhandlers, wet brains, and alcoholics who had no intention of stopping drinking.”
Experience led them to think that it would be better to separate the function of the clubhouse from the contact with active alcoholics and the Washington Area Intergroup Association (WAIA) was formed on October 14, 1946. It was physically located at the Central Group’s clubhouse until it moved to its own place at 1760 Columbia Road NW.
AA in the Washington area continued to grow. By January 1960 there were 15
Virginia groups, 17 Maryland groups, and 21 Washington groups spread over the whole area from Manassas to Hagerstown. Problems arose because the Virginians were not familiar with Maryland geography and the Marylanders were not familiar with the layout of Virginia towns and neighborhoods. The Intergroup procedure was to refer a twelfth step call to a specific group secretary who in turn would assign the call to a member of the group. Because most of the Maryland and Washington desk workers were familiar with Bill A and the North Arlington group, they tended to refer most of the calls to the North Arlington group making that secretary act as a local intergroup. It became obvious to Bill A. and others that Northern Virginia should have its own intergroup and
since many Virginia AAs were already answering the phones at the Washington Intergroup, there would be an ample supply of workers to man the phones. So, at Bill A’s urging, a little discussion, and a little bitterness, the Northern Virginia Intergroup opened an office in the Rucker building in Clarendon in January 1960. It was formally incorporated under Virginia law on March 22, 1960. Since then, many dedicated AAs have served as desk workers, 12th step workers, phone coordinators, and office managers carrying the AA message to people who call for help. They were probably the point of contact for most of the people now in AA in Northern Virginia. In 2008 the desk answered 6,918 calls; 291 of these were from newcomers to AA and 51 12th step calls were made.
The office moved from Clarendon to West Falls Church in 1977, to East Falls
Church in 1989, to Vienna in 1991, to Merrifield in 1999 and to Fairfax in 2011.
Up until 1971 the Washington Intergroup published the Where and When for the whole metropolitan area. The Washington Intergroup failed to publish a 1970 edition of the Where and When, and no Where and Whens were available for at least six months. NVI decided to publish its first Where and When in 1971 and has published it once or twice a year since then.
In the 1970s as the number of groups grew and the cost of postage increased, it became too costly for a group to send an announcement of an event to every group in Northern Virginia. The Intergroup newsletter, THE UNITY LIFELINE, was started in
1976 and carries announcements and news of interest to the groups. Today, if an individual group had to send an announcement to each of the other 450 or more groups in the area, the postage would total more than $200. An issue of the LIFELINE costs about
$40 to print and send.
NVI started to sell Conference approved literature in 1985 primarily as a service to AA groups. Chips were added to the bookroom inventory in 2004 and have proven to be quite popular because of considerable cost savings to groups. In 2016 total literature sales were $79,000 and total chips were $11,000.
As of 2016